Volunteers tidying the kitchen garden beds at Blickling Hall

Volunteers tidying the kitchen garden beds at Blickling Hall

My second day as a volunteer gardener with the National Trust at Blickling Hall involved cleaning up the recently used kitchen garden, and along the way meeting some of the other garden volunteers… oh, and uncovering some plant mysteries…

You may recall that last week I helped Project Manager Mike and gardener Rebecca to make a start in preparing the ground in the main walled garden. With lots of rain since then there had been little chance of doing much more- in fact there were sections that were reminiscent of a World War I trench system, complete with mud and puddles!

‘Ooh, there’s a row of something…’

So, today we turned our attention to the long bed along the south-facing wall, an area that in recent years had been cultivated as a kitchen garden and nursery bed. There were clearly areas of bare soil, some  a bit weedy, whilst other areas still had the remains of last season’s plantings, including Chard, Penstemons, Dahlias and some less obvious herbaceous perennials.

At the start it looked like I might need to weed and then use a spade to dig over the soil, but it turned out that the soil is quite workable and so a border fork proved up to the job. I was soon joined by a platoon of other garden volunteers who turned their attention to other sections of the bed; uncovering rows of planting here and there (and trying to identify and label these as we went), tidying away spent stems and foliage and generally giving the soil its first ‘breath’ of the new year.

I think the plan is to use this bed in due course as a place for demonstrating different approaches to vegetable growing, but for this year Mike is focusing on a holding operation, working around existing groups of plants that can be left and no doubt seeing what other surprises might appear along the way; for example I think I uncovered an area of Rhubarb crowns towards the end of my stint.

Part of the team, proud of the day's work

Part of the team, proud of the day’s work

It was a satisfying day. There’s something ‘optimistic’ about seeing a newly dug border, the dark, rich soil contrasting with the brighter colours of surrounding plants, and looking forward to creating a progressively finer tilth as the days lengthen and temperatures.

My reward at the end of the day- sunset over mid Norfolk

My reward at the end of the day- sunset over mid Norfolk

Further information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener